For 70 years, the TJC Nursing program has not only improved the lives of thousands of graduates, it has also helped generations of patients across the region who have benefited from their expertise.
TJC began training area nurses in 1951, when it opened the Texas Eastern School of Nursing in cooperation with Mother Frances and Medical Center hospitals.
For many years, the nursing school was a separate, TJC entity managed by a board comprised of representatives from the two hospitals and the College. The school was later incorporated into the College’s landscape of academic offerings, but the support TJC received from Tyler’s ever-growing medical community has remained unchanged.
During the 1970s, Tyler’s growth sparked the expansion of both hospitals as well as The University of Texas Health Science Center. As the city’s reputation as a healthcare destination continued to grow, so did the need for highly trained medical professionals.
In 1981, the nursing diploma program became a full-fledged, two-year Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree.
“The TJC nursing department has a long-standing reputation with a commitment to serve the community,” said Bethany Yearty, TJC nursing department chair. “Tyler’s local hospitals, UT Health East Texas and Christus Trinity Mother Frances, have allowed our nursing students to do clinical hours, work as nurse externs while in nursing school, and have ultimately gone on to hire our graduates.”
Today, in addition to the AAS in Associate Degree Nursing (ADN/RN), TJC offers a 12-month licensed vocational nursing (LVN) certificate; and to better meet the needs of students across the East Texas region, courses are offered in Tyler, Jacksonville, Rusk and Lindale, with options for day or night classes.
TJC’s healthcare programs are competitive. Once admitted to the College, students must apply for admission to a nursing or health sciences program. That competition for the best helps to keep TJC’s programs among the tops in Texas. TJC’s health science programs regularly rate among the top performers statewide in certification exams.
The training and technology required for today’s nursing students far surpasses what was needed in years past. Now, nursing students must not only be proficient in caring for clients, they must also be experts in computer charting and the network of “smart” equipment needed to care for the sickest clients.
“Our state-of-the-art simulation and skills labs allow our nursing professors to train students on the same equipment that is used in the hospitals here in the community,” Yearty said.
“This allows for a more seamless transition into practice for the nurses. Also, by partnering with the community hospital affiliates to keep current on local needs and trends, we can further serve the community and help create more prepared nursing students.”
TJC has clinical agreements with 160 hospitals and clinics throughout East Texas, allowing students to gain hands-on experience.
And as the need for more registered nurses increases, TJC continues to find innovative ways to keep up with demand.
In addition to its traditional LVN and ADN/RN programs, TJC offers those certified in other healthcare disciplines an accelerated option to earn their AAS degree and be eligible to sit for the national exam to become a licensed RN:
• LVNs can significantly enhance their skill set and annual income through TJC’s 18-month LVN-RN transition track. The median annual salary for an LVN is $44,106, while RNs earn about $59,000, annually.
• Emergency medical services (EMS)/first responders can also earn their RN credential through TJC’s 12-month paramedic-RN transition track. To accommodate the varying schedules of first responders, courses are conducted in a hybrid format with most lectures offered online.
TJC sends about 250 nursing graduates out into the workforce each year.
“The hospitals report they love TJC nursing students as they are professional, prepared and technically proficient,” Yearty said.
“Many of our graduates go on to serve their communities in various nursing roles such as school nurse, home health, medical-surgical, emergency room, operating room, flight nurse and serving our country in the military services. The local community is proud of TJC’s nursing graduates, and one can never look too far without running into a fellow Apache in the medical community.”
As for what’s next, Yearty said, “The next item on the horizon is to expand our programs to allow a larger pool of qualified candidates to graduate from the TJC nursing programs. We have the opportunity to help students change their lives — and the lives of future generations — by giving them the tools to be successful.”
For more information on the TJC Nursing program, go to TJC.edu/nursing.